The Lakes Free Range Egg Company has been working with McDonald’s for over twenty years and, for the last four years,  we’ve been involved with their Progressive Young Farmer Programme which has now been running for a decade.

We have mentored young people who have been part of the programme and they have worked with us on placements. It gives young people outside of free range egg production, the opportunity to see what is entailed and a chance to see what career opportunities are available.

We are delighted that Jess Elliman – who was a placement student with us a couple of years ago, has joined us full-time to begin her career in the food industry. Jess is a Fields Person, working as part of our agricultural team.

Recently, as part of McDonald’s 10-year anniversary of the Progressive Young Farmer Programme, Helen Brass, co-founder of The Lakes Frere Range Egg Company, travelled to London with Jess to help celebrate the anniversary. It was also an opportunity to catch up with Isla Soutter who has been at The Lakes Free Range Egg Company as 2021 – 22 Progressive Young Farmer placement.

Helen Brass said “It’s great to be able to mentor the placements that come to us. They are always inquisitive, eager to learn and very interested in food production. It’s very important to open doors to young people, letting them see the wide variety of food production career opportunities available. As well as working with McDonalds, we also encourage apprenticeships within our own business – growing our own next generation of professionals in the free range egg business.

“Jess is the first of the Progressive Young Farmers we have offered a full time role and she accepted it before she got her degree results. She has come to us with a much wider understanding of the business already  – and a good baseline knowledge. Jess has also been very supportive to  Isla Soutter who has been the Progressive Young Farmer placement student with us this year. She has just completed her time with us, and we’ve just welcomed our next placement – May Smith.”


newspaper article about Lakes Free Range Egg Co Jess featured in media for McDonald’s: As part of the Progressive Young Farmer programme anniversary, Jess was featured in the Daily Mirror where she talked about her time as a Progressive Young Farmer and working with us. Below is the copy  from the Daily Mirror article:

Egged on by McDonald’s

Exciting jobs in food, farming and agriculture are being overlooked, as young people have no idea what opportunities are out there. From food processing to ploughing fields the work that keeps the nation fed suits a range of skills.

For Jess Elliman, 23, from Cumbria, the egg business is where it’s at – and she wants everyone to know how many great careers there are from farm to fork.

What do you do?

I’m a Fields Person at The Lakes Free Range Egg Company – a family-owned business which has supplied the likes of McDonald’s with free range eggs for 20 years. But there’s a lot more to the job than the title suggests.

My day-to-day role is really varied. It involves placing hens at our free-range and organic contract farms that we source eggs from – there are over 50 and they’re located across the North of England, Midlands, Scotland, and Northern Ireland – so I’m often on the move.

I carry out a lot of visits to farms and help look after the compliance and quality monitoring side of things too. I’m a trained farm auditor too so I can also support contract farm producers by giving advice on best practices and the latest management methods.

What do you love about it?

The variety is perfect and I really enjoy meeting new people and building a good rapport with all our producers.

I have a great relationship with the farmers and enjoy making sure they’re keeping their poultry farms up to standard.

What are the challenges?

I’d say a challenge is never knowing what tomorrow will quite look like or what’s around the corner.

Smaller contact producers are facing a lot of uncertainty at the moment – rising costs of production aren’t easy for anyone – so we have stepped up our support for our producers.

Why did you go into farming in the first place?

My parents both had farming experience in a variety of farming including dairy, sheep, beef and arable. And mores recently they have grown commercial Christmas trees.

When I was younger, I was really involved in the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs (you don’t need to be a farmer to join).

This included competing at livestock judging and doing public speaking competitions which really increased my confidence.

That inspired my career in food and farming. After college I went on to do a foundation degree in Agriculture at The Royal Agricultural University and loved the close-knit community feel that came with it, I really felt at home.

As part of that, I had the chance to apply to the McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmer (PYF) programme which gives you a year in industry where you are mentored by a McDonald’s supplier and get to find out what sort of jobs are out there.

Did it make a difference?

I didn’t really think I would get an interview, let alone be offered a placement. I was so happy to be offered a placement at The Lakes Free Range Egg Company in Cumbria, so I packed my bags and moved nearly 300 miles from where I’d grown up near Andover.

The programme really helped give me that overview and understanding of the whole agricultural supply chain.

I was rearing day-old chicks to young hens, working on company laying farms, and monitoring quality – there were so many different components to it.

It was a really well-rounded introduction to the entire food and farming industry.

Even if you don’t have an agricultural background, you’d come away from the programme with great networks and knowledge you need for a successful career.

How useful was it towards getting your current job?

After completing my placement year, I then went on to finish my degree. Before I got my results, The Lakes offered me the opportunity to return, and this is where I began my current role last summer as Fields Person.

What are your ambitions?

Right now, I just want to take everything I can from my current role and build my skills and knowledge of the poultry sector as much as possible.

However, maybe in a few years, I’d like to consider working within a different aspect of food and farming and focusing on sustainability within the industry.

My experiences, especially from the PYF programme, have shown me there’s so much to food and farming, so it’s tricky to say where I’ll go next, but I’m excited about where my career could take me.”


To mark 10 years of its Progressive Young Farmer programme, McDonald’s has launched a campaign to increase awareness of and diversity within the industry. To find out more about the exciting schemes you can visit They include Root2Food, which gives young people from non-farming backgrounds experience in the industry.